1. Get over the fact that you are going through somebody's home and their things. There is a reason they are opening it up for you to see and to purchase. It is OK.
2. Be prepared...sometimes the smell will run you out of the house faster than you want to be, and on that note, be prepared to get dirty most of the time.
3. Always have cash. We've shown up a few times without it, only to find that it's the best means for getting a deal. Some estate companies (if the sale is run by one, that is) will accept checks and credit cards, but they ALL take cash.
4. If you can't go on the first day, go on the last. True, you might miss out on one thing you loved in the ad, but the bargains you might come across on the last day more than make up for it. Most estates close out at 50-75% off on the last day. And you never know what got left behind.
5. Find what media most sales are advertised in your area. We use two web sites for Dallas: 24-7 Estate Sales and EstateSales.Net. Both of these sites share the location, dates and times, and tons of pictures. Craigslist is a good place to start if you can't find another resource (NOTE: sometimes posts on craigslist can disappoint; an advertised estate sale might just be a glorified garage sale. Our rule? If you can't go in, it's not an estate.).
6. Know that the pictures on the web site might not do the sale justice. And it can also be the other way around. You might be surprised to find that the sale that lists all of its newer items might have vintage treasures hidden somewhere that you can't see in the ad.
7. The garage is usually a treasure trove for smalls, and it's usually a really fun place to get dirty and dig. Unopened boxes are the best.
8. If you take your kids, be prepared to leave. Most estate companies will let them in, but there are also a lot that won't. Do your research before you go. We've been taking our daughter since she was a baby, and they know her for the most part now. There are still some that turn us away, unfortunately, and they don't have our business anymore.
9. You can't know everything about everything. You might think what you found is worth a lot of money for resale, but it might not be. The same goes for specific things want to find for your own personal collection. The more you go, the more you seek it out, the more you learn about it. If you like it, it's worth it. We love Heywood Wakefield furniture and of course old paper and ephemera. Sometimes it's a good buy and sometimes not, but if we love it and will use it, it's worth it.
10. The last thing you should know is that some weekends are good and some aren't. We've had a dry spell every now and then where we miss out on things or just flat don't find anything we are looking for. It's kind of like the clearance section at Target. Sometimes it really disappoints. However, the thrill of the hunt is always there. And that's what keeps us going back for more.
What else would you like to know about estate sales? Have you been before? Does it creep you out or are you a die hard like we are? I'd love to hear!